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Supporting Occupational Health and Wellbeing

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Thursday 08 May 2014

The Social Security Department has started its Supporting Occupational Health and Wellbeing project. The Department processes thousands of medical certificates (claims for benefit) every year. Most claims are short-term and people return to work with little or no intervention. But some claims continue and become long-term. The project aims to transform the way the Department deals with claims. The focus will be on earlier intervention to support people who may need extra help to stay in work or get back to work more quickly.

Using the expertise of Dr Leslie Smith who is a Consultant Occupational Physician and Accredited Specialist in Occupational Medicine, the Department will change its business processes and examine the way incapacity for work is assessed. Working together, Social Security and local GPs will redesign the current medical certificate and look at ways fitness for work can be assessed fairly. Dr Smith will play an important part in this process and look for opportunities to develop and offer training to GPs.

The key aspects of the project are expected to take up to 12 months to put in place, but the Department is confident that these improvements will lead to a reduction in the duration of some claims and an increasing number of people making a return to work.

Ed Ashton, Deputy Chief Officer of the Social Security Department said:

"It's important to understand that this project is not about thinking everyone is fit to work. Nor is it about penalising people for being unwell or taking away support. There will always be people whose ill-health prevents them from working again. Social security exists to protect such people. But, for other claims it's possible that, with the right support, their health condition could be managed within the workplace, even if there are some work restrictions or limitations."

Dr Leslie Smith specialises in modern vocational rehabilitation programmes and for the past 20 years his main specialist expertise has been in developing modern holistic occupational health and wellbeing strategies and programmes for public and private organisations.

Dr Smith said:

"I'm delighted to be part of this exciting project and look forward to working with Social Security and healthcare professionals to support and enhance the occupational health and wellbeing of Guernsey and Alderney people" "When I look back on this assignment in the years ahead, I am confident that it will be seen as a landmark in improving health and wellbeing in the two Islands".

Social Security Minister, Deputy Allister Langlois said:

"We're very pleased to announce that this important project is underway. There's a good deal of overlap between the Progress to Work project which has also been launched and the Supporting Occupational Health and Wellbeing project and although running both in parallel will be a challenge on top of business as usual, we're confident that we have the right expertise and support in place. We restructured the Job Centre last year and have recently renewed the job centre support contract with Personnel Appointments Ltd. These moves will support both projects. I've spoken with a number of GPs about the changes we are planning around sickness claims and there's strong support for what we are aiming to achieve".

Dr Brian Parkin, Chairman of the Primary Care Committee said:

'The Primary Care Practices believe that the efforts of the Social Security Department to support people with health problems remaining at or returning to work are to be welcomed and should bring some real benefits to individuals and the Primary Care Committee look forward to working with them to achieve this"

"We're delighted to have access to the extensive occupational health knowledge and expertise of Dr Leslie Smith to help lead on the Supporting Occupational Health and Wellbeing project says Deputy Sandra James, Social Security's Deputy Minister. "Dr Smith will be meeting with healthcare professionals, employers and special interest groups in due course to help the Department explain how it will bring about the various changes required".


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